[Image Description: x, a Black, hypermobile, agender person, holds both sides of their face with their hands as their face reads to be extremely emotional, mouth open wide as if screaming. They are wearing a strapless, mocha brown unitard and their red afro puffs are bright against the dimly lit backdrop of a forest full of assorted foliage.]
x and Belinda Adam came together during 2022 Pride month to discuss their artistic practices, intimacy, queerness, kink, play, “dance,” and reclamation. Their conversation was also alive with a sense of friendship, laughter, and an ever present hum of hope.
Listening to their insights into the ways queerness, movement, and kink can intertwine to create alternative worlds and selves, I found myself returning to Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by José Esteban Muñoz. Muñoz writes, “Queerness is esssentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world” (1).
In this conversation, x and Belinda insist on the potentiality of another world.
— Willow Green, Interim Co-Editor
x: How's it going? How are you?
BA: I'm good. I've had a pretty full day today of running errands. I also have a breathwork session. It’s a balance of work and play situation. I am here, and I am excited to talk to you and to get to know you, to get to know your work and how both of our work intersects or is aligning and moving in a parallel way or like dancing together in this container.
x: Yes, yes.
BA: What about you?
x: Yeah, no, I am. I'm good. I'm good. I think today I can say yeah, I'm good. I recently had a performance and kind of just a really, really busy week leading up to just another busy few weeks. My month has gotten jam-packed, and my body is very reactive to stress.
x: So, it has been like whoa, whirlwind. Running around... Right, doing all of the things, and trying to balance like, okay, I also need to, like clean my home. I also need to take care of my cat. I also need to have a social life. I’m trying to balance it all. I mean, right? Trying to have a work, life, play leisure recreation, balance within capitalism and everything. Sometimes it's like, oh, is this even possible? How do you do it? But I am in a place where I have things simmering. I think this is about to change, and I'm about to get some rest.
x: I'm like, alright, let's go, let's go. Let's do it. Because I'm ready for it. I'm ready to engage in mediums that I haven't had much institutional training in but enjoy doing as meditation or as hobbies. I'm looking forward to more me time and being able to just explore different parts of myself in all of the ways. To explore other things and other people of course. But yeah, I'm really excited to talk to you.
BA: Definitely. My body’s like yes! It's gonna be fun. It’s a safe space. We can definitely chat and go deep in terms of what we do. It’s such a beautiful intersection, sharing this. You know, with both of us being Gallim moving artists together. I saw your work with zavé, too. I saw you perform!
BA: Our pathway is kind of intertwining and getting closer and closer. And for us to be here! And then you’re taking my class on Thursday!
BA: In person! Yes!
x: Oh, it's going to be... I… I don't even want to know. Don't tell me any, any secrets and Don’t tell me. I don't want any spoilers. No, no. I just want to go in just completely open and let intuition and gut just dictate everything. Just being as open and ready to take risks. Ready to explore things I haven't and avenues I haven't explored before.
BA: Yes, there's a lot of trust in there already. So I feel honored and humbled and grateful. I have not had the opportunity to dig deeper and to learn about your work aside from all these like, real life happenings that I get a glimpse of, and I would like to definitely use this opportunity to get to know you, your work, and what you're doing right now. Do you want to share that?
x: Yeah. Thank you for asking. I am currently in a very transitional period, in terms of being like… Oh, no, this is what I want to create. Oh, no, this is where I'm going. This is… I'm getting closer to figuring out and confirming what my main juiciness is, of performance styles, of approaches, of content. I'm carving out space. Ooooh. Before, I was making work for other people. Whether it was an open call for a five minute piece in a showcase or in a bar. I did plenty of those and plenty of DIY shows, but a lot of them either had themes or a lot of restrictions and a lot of parameters. All these quick turnarounds. So I was like, okay, I can only go so deep, unless I'm already working with material. I also used those smaller moments to experiment where I could.
Now, I am in this place where a lot is really interesting to me. Iconography, such as the Cherub. I use them in my different creative practices and in kink life, in artistic zones, in the zones in between. I am playing around with gender and the body in my body. So much. And kind of playing with exposure. There are aesthetics I am interested in working in. A lot that is visceral and cathartic. To me, there are specific images that are referential for me or inspiring. They tend to draw a lot from lived experience, and then, when it comes to medium and discipline, it's kind of whatever it needs to be. There's a lot of object work. It usually ends up being performative and often involves movement. “Dance,” some may call it.
x: Sometimes there is a lot of talking to the audience and witnesses. Sometimes it's installation based. And I have really enjoyed loosening up and blurring lines of what my niche needs to be. I tend to lean towards more conceptual performance, which I have found that a lot of folks in the like “dance” world — and I say that with a funny voice — I've gotten literally feedback that my work was too conceptual. And I was like, I understand. This is a dance application. But also, well, maybe I guess these folks are just very, like, strict in…
x + BA: … in what they think dance is.
x: Well, I'm still using a lot of movement. I would say it's still dance. I really love… I'm such a sucker for the conceptual art movement and performance art, even though I have a theater and dance background primarily. So, kind of viewing performance with the way that the visual art world views performance, different from theater and dance. Right? Those really thin lines. I'm just really interested in performance as a concept in itself, really.
Photo of x by: Scott Shaw
x performing in zavé martohardjono's TERRITORY: The Island Remembers
[ID: x, a light skinned mixed/Black, hypermobile, agender person is dressed as the deity, Bao (metallic pink shorts, pink harness, and blue feathers as wings. They have their bright red braids coiled into two buns with two braids framing their face). They are photographed mid action, taking a largely comedic step forward with both arms raised in the air. A Black ASL interpreter is in the background and a wood alter made of woven brown shiny vinyl paper material and fake foliage create a cave like structure in the center of the stage, while x is to one side of it (x’s stage right, photo viewers’ left).]
x: Also, I know little tidbits about your work and your practice just by reading, you know, class descriptions or your bio. Blurbs that float around the internet. But in your own words, I would definitely love to hear what's really juicy for you right now. What you’re diving into. And if you want to share, like, where you're coming from, and where you think you're going, or where you're at right now? Or if that's blurred? Yeah, I would love to get a little deeper.
BA: Deeper. Yes. Thank you so much for asking. And juicy? What's juicy right now? What's juicy for me, at this moment, is intimacy. I've always been curious about intimacy and the interest has been evolving as I am evolving myself. My work comes from this motivation and curiosity, of learning and understanding what intimacy means. And I think, in order to do that, it also comes with uncovering and making space for the different truths that you know, live in this body. How is that interchangeable? How is it similar? How is that different compared to others relationally? And also communally? How we are, you know, similar as humans and also how we're unique individually? I am researching and also storytelling about this through a queer immigrant perspective, because that's, like, you know, my own perspective. I am Chinese Indonesian, born in Indonesia, and I moved to the States in 2009. I’ve lived in New York for the last seven years. I'm just dealing with, you know, this whole creating my own work and also at the same time balancing my legal status and balancing survival on top of that. That's pretty much what I’ve been doing since I moved here. Until right before the pandemic hit, but I feel like the curiosity and motivation has always been the same.
How I approach and research my work has evolved because, during the pandemic, a lot of people, especially performing artists, were shut down. We were left with ourselves. You know? Being isolated in our own home and space. You have to be with yourself, so a lot of information comes up. I feel like I had planted the seed of this self discovery and healing journey beforehand, but, before the pandemic, I never had time and space. Who does in New York? Um, but, um, COVID and quarantine has definitely been bittersweet. There's so many lives lost and so many things that have happened, and nothing will ever be the same again. But, at the same time, the blessing for me has been finding practices that have helped me go through this and reclaim myself. In a way, reclaim my relationship with myself and my relationship to joy and pleasure, and that has been possible through the discovery of the practice of kink and Tantra done through and practiced through the lens of queerness. Right now and throughout the pandemic, I've been offering what I have researched and found in my own body with others through teaching Zoom community class. When quarantine is a little looser and the opportunities come up, I get to kind of research how this translates into the performing arts setting. Because I am a performing artist. That's a very, you know, certain identity that I feel.
And yeah, right now, I'm asking, okay, how does this look in a performance? How does this look in a community class and group class? And how does this look in a one on one session, in a more intimate exchange with someone who I work with personally? So, I'm juggling all that and setting a strong foundation, where all of these interests and different identities can coexist.
Photo of Belinda Adam by Melissa Guevara
[ID: An Asian person with short hair wears lingerie and blazer, extending their right arm out holding a microphone with a strong focus.]
x: So much, so much resonated. I think a big part is really acknowledging the last few years. Immediately, in March 2020, I made an Instagram video. A little sketch comedy. That was me going back and forth as an interviewer and as a character artist, interviewing for an opportunity. And then the interviewer is like, “I'm looking at your resume. And I see from March 2020, to”—whatever your predicted end was at that time—“You didn't make any work. Everyone else found resources, and they found the time.”
Everyone thought it was so funny, but it was like, this is really a thing, right? Are we going to be able to still make art? Do we have to make art? Do we want to make art? Are people gonna give us money? Where's the money gonna come from? Is it going to happen? And so, right, I was definitely spiraling. But, I made so much discovery. My body, my body and different disabilities came to the forefront. And also, literally in April of that year I had this moment where I completely was like, I'm going to love my body. That's it.
I'm going to love my belly and love my chest, even though it's not the chest I want right now. I'm going to love it because it has carried me this far. It is my vessel. It is what I use to perform. So much is embodied, even if I'm completely still. I really grew into my sexuality and like eroticism with the self. And then, also, I was able to open up to others as well, even virtually. Whereas before I was just very closed off emotionally and not confident. So, to have these huge pivotal moments happen, and it happened so fast. These moments of revelation, of epiphany, of discovery, of self discovery, and just feeling just very raw, open, vulnerable. And then having the time to really see what inspires me, what comes my way. But, I feel like what has been interesting for both of us is how we have found opportunities, despite all of the negative. All of the heartbreak, all of the grief, and the loss.
x: We've had these little wins, which is a very… It's very, you know, for me, it's very difficult to hold. It's hard to celebrate and have pride when so much feels like we're in chaos and disaster both within our smaller communities and at large, let alone personal and internal moments. But, I've been so, so grateful for all the opportunities, and it has been very surprising and exciting and anxiety-provoking to be like, oh, okay, wow, okay, now people are liking my work. And, I'm still sad because there's the whole pandemic, and I'm having health issues and life. Life is still happening and COVID is still real, still present. There's still that and then there's war and there's crisis. There's, there's so much…
BA: I hear you!
x: But I also use grant money to pay my rent. So this is what I do. I really couldn't imagine doing anything else. And I'm just very, very humbled and appreciative to have all the opportunities I have to do virtual performance, to do curation, to do in person performances, again. To collaborate with mid-career and established artists, to learn, to have mentorship. For other people to have the openness and capacity and trust in me with their time to give me feedback, to soundboard off with me, to collaborate with me, to fund me, to support me, and to see community just blossom also and really come to the forefront. Both personally and artistically I have never felt so well supported. And so it's almost like the institutional stuff, the grants and residencies don't matter as much as my friends and my peers, and directors and writers and the people that I'm meeting for the first time. They are interested in what I'm doing. Real people. And people who look like me, people who have shared experiences, people who get it. People who get the perspective of queerness, of messing with gender, of play, of holding a lot of identities and experiences in one body. Yeah, it's been… it's been… Really, it's been wild.
BA: Yes. I definitely hear what you're saying. It almost feels like a beautiful chaos in a way, and I think it's beautiful because it feels like for the first time we are admitting, you know, what the heck is going on?! And surrendering. Surrendering to everything because I feel things are shifting. Things are changing, and there is the destruction that's happening at the same time as, you know, the rebuilding and then within that, the movement. It's kind of like waves crashing. There's the big waves, and there's the little waves, like, in between the big waves, you know? I think, in a way, we are in our body and also in society at the same time. It feels overwhelming and insane because change is happening. And it's not comfortable. But we are making space for all of it.
The pain, the ugly, things that were not at the forefront before are now there. At the same time, new things are birthing and blooming. At the same time, we also get to reimagine and create what we want. And knowing that it's this non-binary existence. There's so many ways to go about it, and now we know that climbing the ladder, this one directional, like, capitalistic perspective, is not the only way. There is an expansion and a making room for so many things. Going back to artistic practice, from my own perspective, it's practicing this all within my own body, right? It's making space for all of the feelings and emotion and the confusion and the parts of this that we are hesitant to show and to talk about. I think I am so drawn to kink as a practice because it is the only space that feels… raw. And that can hold space for all of these possibilities within the safety of parameters. We get to explore in so many different ways when safety is present.
How has kink been informing your work and your practice? How do you intersect that with your work? I'm curious.
x: It’s interesting because I feel like when I engage with kink with other people, specifically in dominant/submissive dynamics, I am typically in a dominant role. And it has really been transformative for me and then also to watch it be transformative for someone else. And to have this expansion and this discovery together is really precious. In true, true kink, I feel like it's like, very, very queer. And also consent and boundaries are so important—the container. The container of safety that someone is being held in, that people are holding. And trust. There's so much trust. Right? And also the ability for things to get, quote unquote weird or what would otherwise be taboo. It’s this place where it almost feels like there are no limits. It's just this other world. It helps me come into myself, more into an embodiment of being more confident in myself, in my body. These dynamics where I have this placement of worship and adoration but also deep respect. It's… sometimes hard to describe.
I also have this character of this angel, this cherub of sorts that I play with, in both my artistic practice and my kinky mode. I kind of love being like: what are the different iterations of this archetype? How can I queer this archetype? How can I, you know, impose, transness and non binary lens?
Intimate is a great word. There's something about including intimate performance into my artistic practice that I'm also really drawn to the experience of being raw emotionally and being like, okay, I'm giving it to witnesses, to a group, to community. And they're like, “Ah! I'm also feeling things!” And we just hold that for each other. And be in space. You're in this environment, whatever the environment may be, and, even outside of the physical architecture, there is this energetic and emotional container of trust. Yes. Again, thinking about trust and intimacy and performance and, and embodiment. Confidence. Where it comes from, how, when it gets into the body.
Photo of x by Olga Rabetskaya
[ID: x sits on a wooden stool in the GALLIM dance studio which is in a church. blurry in the background is a dark red curtain and an exit sign above a brown door. x is in the foreground and they are visible head to toe- from their bright red afro puff to their beige ankle braces over their black socks. they have blunt tent bangs and rouge on their cheeks and nose. x find a black and white checkered mini babydoll dress with layered puff sleeves, a deep cut, and black stings tied in a bow in the center of their chest. the butterfly tattoo on their chest peeks through. Their legs are open as they hold a wicker basket of assorted purple-ish fake flowers and a small birthday hat.]
BA: Yes! Yes.
x: Okay, and also how can I like…? Okay, like, art doesn't just have to feel like work, because sometimes it does.
x: And it is labor. It is laborious, but how can I still have fun? How can I experiment? How can I play, play with myself?
BA: Exactly, exactly.
x: Especially for adults, I feel like reminding ourselves to play and have fun. And I think that is where I see unabashedly and unapologetically in kink, in queer spaces, in kinky queer spaces, and in queer kinky spaces.
BA: Yes! I totally agree with you. I feel like kink is kind of a playground for our child's self that lives in this adult body. Kink is the playground for that. I discovered kink through a one week Tantra retreat that I did called Urban Tantra. It's a very, very great container. And it's very queer also. When I found out about it, I was like, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I want to learn all about this. And so, in a way, I found kink through the lens of spirituality. When I discovered it, I was like, it's like, the movement of me. Just like this. I have always had that persona in my performance and in researching movement, you know? But like, I feel like I always othered it. It's like, oh, it's just a performance thing. As if that doesn’t count!! You know?
So when I discovered it, I felt like oh, it's a mother tongue that I lost touch with for a while. And then when I found it, it's like, oh, this is similar to dance, to theater. It is exactly the same, but there's just an essence that completes each other in a way. The biggest takeaway for me in finding kink and applying it in the formal dance setting is: once your body has experienced something, you cannot unsee it, you cannot unlearn it, you know? The consent and the creating a container of safety and trust. How do we organize around that? How do we include this in our daily practice everywhere? It has really opened my eyes in terms of even just going to dance class and seeing how a dance company operates. Like, with the old traditional model, sometimes I’m like, is this consensual?
BA: I'm learning that my body cannot be in spaces where this new part of me that I've opened isn’t invited. If that part can't be invited, then I don't feel safe. I understand that, of course, I felt anxious. Of course, this didn’t feel good in this space and setting. It's not me. It’s never my body. So it's about reclaiming that agency and sovereignty over our body.
Photo of Belinda Adam by Steve Selman
[ID: An Asian person with slick short hair, thick eyeliner, wearing a black corset with blood dripping down their thighs squatting in front plates of food, fruits and candles - exemplifying an altar.]
BA: Ah! We have three minutes left. And I want to, I feel like we can't, like! This is… we're just like! Touching the surface!
x: Oh, my God. This is just like the beginning of things. I feel like, oh, we should have, like, a podcast or something where you could just go on forever? Absolutely. But yeah, I guess...
BA: I feel like this is an important conversation to continue having, just casually, virtually, in real life, and for everybody to start questioning and talk about and learn about. So, do you want to share where people can follow your work and keep in touch?
x: Sure, sure. I have a website. https://x-itsjustx.com/. And Instagram is a great place. I'm trying to post more about my practice and projects there. Hopefully not just about funding, but sharing behind the scenes stuff and process stuff. Through my website, there is a newsletter. I also have a little link tree on my Instagram bio. It always has my upcoming performances and recent video documentation, all kinds of things in there. Yeah, and I have a solo show premiering in August, which is really exciting.
BA: Where's it?
x: It will be presented at HERE Art Center.
BA: Oh, I love HERE Art center.
x: It’s part of their sublet Co-Op series. So it's really exciting. I've been working on this since 2019. I've been working on the show and chipping away at it. I’ve done little work-in-progress showings. And so I'm really nervous but excited to come to this point of just being like, boom, here it is. My work is out there. Yeah.
What about you and you do all kinds of things you teach? Where do you perform? And how can people learn more? How can people stay up to date?
BA: The best way to get in touch is through Instagram. I am @adambelinda. I am working on setting up my new website right now to put all these practices together, and I will be teaching more classes in different places. I will announce it on my social media handle. I am also opening my offering for one-on-one sessions. Also, I would like to manifest the invitation to be invited to perform paid performances. I’m working on expanding my practice globally, too. New York will always be home, but I see myself in the near future traveling to different places and still coming back to New York to offer my service, to teach and perform.
But yeah, it's so nice to chat with you, x. I can't wait to see you and share the space with you in person in class and to continue researching, practicing, and talking about these things.
x: Yes. Likewise, I'm so excited, and I wish you the best of luck with all of your teaching, your performing, and your practices. I also hope you get plenty of that balance of play, rest, and work.
BA: Yes, right back at you! Have a good rest of your evening, boo.
x: Thank you, too.